Talulla Rising Page 71

‘Or he was just a loner,’ Lucy said.

‘He never mentioned anyone to me,’ Madeline said. ‘Most clients, they’ll mention a wife, or a girlfriend or a workmate or whatever, someone, at any rate. Not him. When those guys turned up at the hotel in Wales, I realised I’d never really imagined him knowing anyone.’

‘There’s something else. Jake said the number of females was tiny in comparison to the number of males. Something like one to a thousand. No one knew why. It can’t have been that fewer women got bitten. It can only have been that fewer women survived the bite. But look at us.’

‘Yeah, well, that’s London water for you,’ Maddy said, pouring refills. ‘Chin-chin.’

Devaz woke up – lost. His face said he’d just had a terrifying dream. Then his face realised it wasn’t a dream. For a few moments he looked from one to the other of us, reconstructing his history. His psyche wobbled, flirted with collapse. Then the picture of his recent past set hard, beyond denial or escape. He knew what had happened, what he was, what he’d done. He turned to me.

‘You fucking cunt. You did this to me. I’ll fucking kill you.’

Cloquet, still armed, drew the Luger. ‘Silver,’ he said, quietly. ‘All silver rounds. The Russian insisted.’

I knew he was lying. Devaz didn’t. His face was wet and his mouth was open, revealing the fruity gap between his upper front incisors. With a big moustache, I realised, he’d look like a low-rent Freddie Mercury impersonator.

‘None of us asked for this,’ Lucy said. ‘We’re all in the same boat.’

‘She did this to me on purpose.’

‘Yes, I did,’ I said. ‘Would you like to know what your colleagues did to me on purpose? You fucking dumb self-righteous prick.’

Cloquet had the gun to Devaz’s head superfast. ‘Don’t think of it,’ he said. ‘Seriously. Don’t give it a thought.’

‘Everyone needs to calm down, please,’ Lucy said. ‘Right now.’

Fortunately, at that moment, Trish arrived. She was a small, gymnastic, twenty-seven-year-old with short chopped red hair and large jade-green eyes. The too-big black combat pants and jacket made it obvious where she’d picked up her wardrobe. The men’s sneakers fit her like clown shoes. She couldn’t keep a straight face when Madeline introduced us.

‘Sorry about back there,’ she said, grinning. ‘Got a bit distracted. You know how it is.’

What was there to say? I did know how it was.

She and Fergus had left the detention facility maybe half an hour after we had (with a backpack full of Hunters’ gear and about eighty pounds in cash – thanks, you lot, for leaving us completely bloody stranded, by the way), gone for a romp on the downs, dozed in an empty barn till moonset, washed in a water trough, then got dressed, strolled into the nearest village and taken a bus. Fergus had made his own way back to London by train. The place names involved – Wantage, Swindon, Lambourne – meant nothing to me. She had clothes to change into after her shower, which freed-up the WOCOP gear for Devaz. As soon as he was dressed, he demanded to be let go.

‘No one’s keeping you prisoner,’ I said. ‘Fuck off.’

He didn’t. Instead he sulked and prowled the cottage. I observed him shooting glances at Madeline. Observed her shake her head: No. As in, No, willingness to fuck you last night does not translate into willingness to fuck you now. Back off, dickhead.

I called Konstantinov. He and Walker were installed at the house on the coast. Walker had been treated by the doctor. Wounds cleaned, stitched, dressed, ribs strapped, antibiotics. He was sleeping. The doctor had left twenty minutes ago.

‘Get him back,’ I said.


‘Tell him to get hold of whatever kit he needs for a blood transfusion. We’re bringing the boy with us. Listen.’

Konstantinov didn’t interrupt. When I’d finished, he just said: ‘Good. What time will you be here?’

I looked in on Caleb in the cellar. The vascular web was dark in his face and hands, but I’d seen it worse. In the confined space there was no escaping the ugliness of my intention. For weeks his life had been imprisonment and suffering. Now, thanks to me, it was going to continue. He’d thought I was his friend. I had been his friend. Some of his guilt and longing for his mother had been diverted my way, and I’d accepted it. Naturally: I had divertable guilt and longing of my own. He’d let his mother down, I’d failed my son. The surrogacy that dare not speak its name. Now, with the power to reunite vampire parent and child, I was going to keep them apart. The only Old Testament comfort was knowing that however things turned out Mia would come after me for revenge.

‘You’re going to need us,’ Madeline said, when I was back upstairs. ‘To get your boy back. You’re going to need all of us.’

We were in the lounge. Trish was upstairs talking to someone on her cell. Lucy, Cloquet and, rather sheepishly now, Devaz were in the kitchen with the back door open to the bright morning, smoking and drinking vodka’d coffee. Outside was a high blue sky with static shreds of white cloud, cold fresh air shivering the leaves and grass.

‘I already owe you my life,’ I said.

‘Bollocks,’ she said. ‘Had to be someone. Might as well be those fuckers. Anyway, point is, don’t worry. We’ve got to look out for each other.’

I opened my mouth to say, I’ll make it worth your while, meaning I’d pay, but I didn’t say it. It would’ve been vulgar. It wasn’t that Maddy wouldn’t take money – of course she would – it was that this was something else. Without me realising it the feeling of being with (it was a warm shock in the blood now that I did realise it) family had crept in. The little collective consciousness, with its insights and occlusions, moved like a soft current between us. It was partly why Devaz was still here. Madeline – I got it, glimpsed the thing she’d been guarding in our peeled moments – was lonely. I saw her in a hotel bathroom touching up her make-up. At home in her flat, sitting on the loo and staring at the floor. In the back of a London cab, looking out at the liquid lights. Alone. Always alone. Now there was this, us, kin, the pack.

Lucy appeared in the doorway, hands wrapped around a red coffee mug, thin shoulders hunched. For a moment the three of us looked at each other. ‘I suppose this is all actually happening,’ Lucy said, shoulders going down. ‘I keep thinking...’ She shook her head, let it go. We knew what she meant. In spite of the hard evidence there was a certain amount of pointlessly asking yourself if it might not, even now, all turn out to be an illusion, a dream, a fabulous and revolting mistake.

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